For the past three seasons, Clare Harpley has been a star in the New England Rugby Union women's 10s competition.
Now she's been recognised at a national level.
A dual premiership winner with St Albert's College, Harpley has been selected in Rugby Australia and UniSport Australia's University Women's 7s Rising Stars squad. Harpley and her Albies teammates represented the University of New England at at the UniSport Nationals Rugby 7s competition in September.
Her performances over the two day tournament caught the eyes of the selectors of the University squad in dual Olympian Shannon Parry and Ben Whitaker.
The squad will play at the Queensland 7s state championships in Brisbane on November 11 and 12.
"It was more of a surprise because we went up to uni games just to have a crack," Harpley said of her selection.
"We knew we would be up against some pretty tough competition and we all surprised ourselves.
"We won five out of the seven games we played."
Harpley said she knew a squad was being chosen from the competition but it wasn't a priority for her.
"I knew there was a squad being selected but it was surprise, an exciting surprise. I was pretty much over the moon," she said.
A step up in the level of competition is expected and Harpley is excited for the challenge.
"It will be a real eye opener, to see what other talent is out there," she said.
"It will be a challenge but I am up for it. I am feeling pretty fit and really to give it a real crack."
Harpley has predominantly played 10s and 15s rugby union in her career with a stint in the Brumbies junior system prior to beginning at UNE and Albies.
She said she hasn't had as many opportunities to play the 7s format of the sport.
But, as an outside back, her strengths suit the format perfectly. There's also huge opportunities in 7s with plenty of touring squads.
"There's an article UniSport posted saying the Rising Stars is a start to being picked in the university team that's going to France in 2024. So there's a lot of opportunities in 7s which is exciting," she said.
With her university studies wrapping up in early 2024, Harpley won't be returning to the field in the New England competition. But she's loved her time here.
"We have had a really strong base of girls and the rugby club is a really strong, community environment, fantastic coaches," she said.
"New England Rugby, you have got to give it to them. Even playing club rugby up there from the first year until now, the competition has improved significantly.
"That has got everyone more exposure and seeing that there's more opportunities out there."
She was particularly thankful to the coaching staff, both at Albies and UNE's Sports Academy.
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